Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 30. huhtikuuta 2016

Russian GP / Qualifying: Another power unit failure for Hamilton!

Already before today´s qualifying Ferrari had announced that Sebastian was going to get a five-place grid penalty for the Russian GP due to an unscheduled gearbox change. Sebastian had had an electrical failure in his Margherita in FP2, which made me quite worried about Ferrari´s reliability once again this weekend.

Q1 saw everyone out on the red-marked super soft tyres. One thing was clear right from the beginning: the Silver Arrows were flying at Sochi Autodrome! After the first attempts Hamilton was 0,9s up on Kimi and a whole 1,3s up on Sebastian! However, on his second run Sebastian managed to improve his lap time, which made him "only" half a second off Hamilton´s pace. Williams had made some upgrades on their car for the weekend and this track clearly suited them better than the first three venues. Bottas and Massa were 5th and 6th and the Williams teammates were separated by only 7 thousandths of a second. Out of Q2 were the Renault teammates Magnussen and Palmer, Sauber duo Nasr and Ericsson and the Manors of Wehrlein and Haryanto.

Rosberg absolutely owned Q2. The German´s pace was utterly dominant; he was half a second up on his teammate Hamilton and 1,3s up on Sebastian. The pecking order was clear: Mercedes was the fastest team, second fastest was Ferrari and third was Williams. In terms of the super soft tyres there was an interesting detail, which was charasteristic of this track: instead of only one flying lap it was possible to run two flying laps on the same set of super soft tyres. Red Bull´s Kvyat made it among the top ten in the dying seconds of Q2, which meant that Toro Rosso´s Sainz was knocked out of the final session. Both McLarens, both Haas drivers and Force India´s Hulkenberg were also eliminated from Q3. However, I was very happy to see Verstappen make it among the top ten.

Things didn´t go to plan for luckless Hamilton; a power unit failure -similar to that in China- ruled the Briton out of Q3! As Hamilton´s latest ERS drama unfolded and precluded him from running, Rosberg owned Q3, too. Hamilton also had to visit the stewards to explain why he didn´t rejoin the track in the manner required by the race director after running slightly wide at Turn 2 during Q1. Rosberg took provisional pole by 8 tenths of a second over Sebastian, who was his closest rival. Rosberg´s next try saw him faster in the first two sectors before the lap was ruined by an off in Turn 13. However, his job was long done. Sebastian´s gap to Rosberg was finally massive 7 tenths of a second. Bottas surprised by qualifying 3rd in his FW38. Once again Kimi made a mistake in the last corner and had to settle for P4. However, due to the penalty Sebastian will drop to seventh, which means Bottas will make Williams´ first front-row start since Germany two years ago. Kimi will start 3rd, Massa 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Perez 6th, Kvyat 8th and Verstappen 9th. Hamilton´s provisional grid position is 10th but there might be some penalties coming, if the Briton´s car needs an engine change.

Rosberg seems to have it too easy at the moment. I definitely hope that Kimi and Sebastian will take rocket starts tomorrow so that the red warriors take the battle to Rosberg. Williams´ pace  has seemed stronger on one lap than on longer runs so I´m expecting the Ferrari duo to make their way past Bottas and Massa in the race. You can never underestimate Lewis Hamilton, now matter how far back on the grid he starts. Tomorrow´s race is predicted to be a one-stop race so the tyres won´t play too a significant role. There´s one thing I hope more than anything else: that there will be no reliability worries for Ferrari this time!

sunnuntai 17. huhtikuuta 2016

Chinese GP: A worst case scenario at the start!

Drama seems to have been the word describing the Chinese GP weekend. So was the case in today´s race. The start was eventful and dramatic: Red Bull´s Ricciardo stormed to the lead from P2 with Rosberg right at the Australian´s tail. Ferrari´s start was a worst case scenario; Red Bull´s Kvyat took a rocket start and saw space in the inside line going into Turn 1, but Vettel wasn´t prepared for the Russian´s move, which lead to a collision between the Ferrari teammates! Kimi lost his front wing due to the collision and Sebastian´s front wing got some damage, too. Kimi had to pit for a new nose and Sebastian dropped down many positions as well. Sebastian was clearly upset about the collision and felt urgent need to explain the incident on the team radio, saying there was nothing he could have done to avoid the contact. I honestly believe a collision was the last thing that Sebastian would have wanted in the race! Sebastian is extremely hard on himself so I can imagine how he blames himself for the incident.

Starting from the back of the grid wasn´t the only challenge that Hamilton was facing today. The Briton, too was involved in a first corner collision with Sauber´s Nasr and lost his front wing as well. On lap 3 there was more drama. Rosberg was right at Ricciardo´s tail when suddenly Ricciardo´s left-rear tyre exploded! There was debris on the track after the first lap collisions so that was probably the cause for Ricciardo´s puncture. Luckily the puncture happened near the pit entry so it didn´t take too much time to get the car into the pits. But such a shame for Ricciardo, who had had a stunning start to the race! Safety car was deployed as there was so much debris on the track.

Behind the safety car the top five was very surprising (not the lead though): Rosberg was leading, Williams´ Massa 2nd, McLarens´s Alonso 3rd, Manor´s Wehrlein 4th and Haas´ Gutierrez 5th. Sebastian was down in P14 and Kimi even further down in P19 at this stage! When safety car came in Sebastian started aggressively make his way through the field. Margherita´s nose had been changed in the first pit stop, but on lap 11 Sebastian got a new front wing damage; the German forced an overtaking move on Williams´ Bottas but not without a slight contact, which damaged the end plates of Sebastian´s front wing. Sebastian, however, didn´t even notice the damage so it didn´t have too much affect on the runnability of the car.

On lap 16 Rosberg was leading the race with Red Bull´s Kvyat 2nd and Williams´ Massa 3rd. Sebastian had already made his way up to P4. At this point Kimi´s pace didn´t look as promising as I would have wanted it to be; I was wondering if Kimi´s SF16-H had got some damage in the first corner collision with Sebastian after all. But towards the end of the race Kimi´s pace was improving and Kimi´s last stint on the soft tyres was impressive. Red Bull´s Ricciardo had made a great recovery as well and the Australian was flying at the end of the race. It was very refreshing to see Red Bull being so competitive today. Ricciardo actually managed to overtake Hamilton on track, which was a surprising turn indeed. Only a moment later the Australian attacked on Massa and jumped to P4.

Towards the end of the race Kimi got everything out of his car and showed some spectacular overtaking. Kimi´s compatriot Bottas could do nothing but surrender when the Iceman determinedly made his way past the Williams pilot. Soon Kimi smelled Hamilton´s blood and was right at the Briton´s tail. And Kimi made a move on Hamilton and got past! It was an impressive move, although it was obvious that Hamilton´s car wasn´t running perfectly after the first lap collision. Only a moment later the Iceman was targeting Massa. Another awesome overtaking move and Kimi had made his way up to P5! An impressive recovery after the horrifying opening lap!

Nobody was able to prevent Rosberg from winning today. And the German did it dominantly by 40 seconds! Sebastian finished 2nd, which was a staggering achievement considering the start of the race. When Sebastian was congratulated on the team radio for his 2nd place, Sebastian repeated his humble apologies to the team for the collision. I´m sure Sebastian´s joy was overshadowed for his guilt for the collision with Kimi. Nevertheless, Red Bull´s Kvyat finished 3rd and Ricciardo 4th, which was a brilliant result for Red Bull. Kimi finished 5th, Massa 6th and Hamilton 7th. A few laps before the chequered flag Bottas was in P8 but on dying medium tyres the Finn couldn´t prevent the Toro Rosso duo Verstappen and Sainz from overtaking him, so the Finn had to settle for P10 and only one point. This proved that Toro Rosso is a serious contender for Williams this year. I was very happy to see Verstappen finish in P8 today.

Rosberg has had a dream start to the season; 3 wins from 3 races and the maximum of 75 points. Hamilton is still second in the championship standings, 36 points down on his teammate. Ricciardo is 3rd with 36 points, Sebastian 4th with 33 points and Kimi 5th with 28 points. Mercedes has now a 63-point gap over Ferrari in the constructors´ standings. Hamilton has had  problem-filled first three races so I´m sure he will bounce back extremely hard when he has a problem free weekend. There´s definitely more to come from Hamilton, I believe.

I can imagine that there are many thoughts going through Sebastian´s mind at the moment. He seems to feel extremely guilty for the collision with Kimi and he humbly apologised to both the team and Kimi. I sincerely believe that he didn´t do it on purpose. In the pre-podium room there was a heated conversation between Sebastian and Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat was absolutely right; every racing driver would have done the same and taken the risk of choosing the inside line. This is racing: taking risks, challenging your rivals and having heated moments! Sometimes it means a collision with your teammate. But what I appreciate a great deal is that when something like this happens, Sebastian is humble enough to apologise. I´m sure both Sebastian and Kimi are mature enough to discuss the incident, learn from it and put it all behind them.

P.S. There´s another article on the Chinese GP weekend written by me here

lauantai 16. huhtikuuta 2016

Chinese GP / Qualifying: Rosberg conquered pole in a dramatic qualifying!

Before the Chinese GP weekend the FIA officially confirmed that the unpopular elimination-style qualifying format used in Australia and Bahrain will be dropped for the rest of the season, reverting instead to the system used last year.

After the morning´s heavy rain the track was still partly damp when qualifying got underway. Most of the drivers ventured out initially on intermediate tyres. However, the Manor drivers Haryanto and Wehrlein headed out on supersoft tyres. Soon there was drama on track: Wehrlein hit a bump on a wet patch on the pit straight, causing his MR05 to snap sideways and hit the barriers. The session was red flagged for 22 minutes as there was debris on the track. Q1 saw more drama as Mercedes driver Hamilton complained of a down-on-power engine, which prevented the Briton setting a time. As if a 5-place grid penalty for a gear box change hadn´t been enough for Hamilton! The cruel fact is, that Hamilton will start to the race from the back of the grid! The top teams came out not until at the end of the session. The Ferrari teammates Vettel and Räikkönen topped the time sheets in Q1 with Williams´ Bottas third and Rosberg down in sixth. Renault´s Magnussen and Palmer were eliminated in the first session, so were Haas´ Gutierrez and Wehrlein´s teammate Haryanto.

The second segment didn´t lack drama, either. Mercedes´ Rosberg made his first and only run on yellow-marked soft tyres; a strategic gamble that will allow him to start the race on the more durable soft rubber.  Everyone else came out on red-marked super softs. There was more drama at the end of the segment. With 1 minute 17 seconds left in the clock, Force India´s Hulkenberg stopped on track due to losing his left-front wheel. The red flags fell at just the wrong time for  Williams´ Massa, who had to abandon his flying lap and therefore was unable to make it into Q3. McLaren teammates Alonso and Button were also casualties of the red flag incident. Both Sauber drivers and Haas´ Grosjean were also out of Q3. Ironically, Hulkenberg had set a lap time competitive enough to make it among the top ten but due to losing the wheel he was unable to continue in the qualifying. This time I was delighted to see Kimi topping the time sheets with Sebastian second. It was so promising to see Ferrari match Mercedes´ pace so well...

Kimi´s first run in Q3 was brilliant and the Iceman made it on the top. Sebastian, on the other hand, sat out the first runs and made only one attempt at the end of the session. Rosberg, however, got everything together on his second flyer and finished half a second up on Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who sprung a surprise to keep the Ferraris off the front row! There were only 6 hundredths of a second separating Ricciardo and Kimi, who finished third. This time Sebastian got beaten by his Finnish teammate and had to settle for P4. Kimi had been seriously challenging Rosberg in the first two sectors on his second run, but made a mistake at the hair pin, which cost the Finn a few tenths at least. Sebastian´s flying lap wasn´t clean, either. Williams´ Bottas drove an excellent qualifying as well, making it fifth. Red Bull´s Kvyat finished 6th, Force India´s Perez 7th and the Toro Rosso duo Sainz and Verstappen finished 8th and 9th.

Tomorrow´s race will be really interesting especially in terms of the tyre strategy. Will Rosberg be able to make a perfect start on the soft tyres or do his closest rivals on the super softs have an advantage over the current championship leader? The Shanghai circuit is extremely hard on tyres, so the super soft tyres won´t last more than 10 laps maybe... I hope both Kimi and Sebastian will take super starts like in Australia and storm past Ricciardo coming into the first corner! Hamilton mustn´t be written out of the race, either. Although he has to make his way through the pack, we know what this ambitious Briton is capable of. What I would love to see is a red podium with a little touch of blue; 1-2 for Ferrari and Toro Rosso´s Verstappen third ;) ;)

sunnuntai 3. huhtikuuta 2016

Bahrain GP: Fifth win in-a-row for Rosberg!

Bahrain GP took a dramatic turn even before it actually got started. Suddenly on the warm-up lap smoke started coming from the rear of Sebastian´s SF16-H without any warning! I couldn´t believe my eyes, I didn´t want to believe it was true! Sebastian´s race was over before it even got started :( In the season-opening Australian GP it was Kimi´s car, which got hit by a technical failure and today it was Sebastian´s turn to face a DNF. Reliability seems to be a real issue for Ferrari this season. I can´t even describe my feelings, how heart-rending to see Sebastian being out of the race already before the start!

The start was eventful, too. Kimi had a poor start for some reason and lost instantly many positions. The Williams of Massa and Bottas on the other hand got superb starts and they were challenging the Mercedes duo going into Turn 1! Rosberg got a dream start and took the lead but Bottas in his FW38 was already alongside Hamilton going into the first corner. They ended up colliding, which caused some damage on Hamilton´s car. The Briton lost many positions but was able to continue racing in spite of the collision. The collision was taken under investigation by the stewards a bit later and Bottas was considered to be at fault. The Finnish Williams driver was handed a drive-through penalty, which destroyed the Finn´s race pretty much. So on lap two Rosberg was leading the race, Massa was second and his teammate Bottas third. Kimi was fifth and Hamilton was down in P7.

Kimi was absolutely passionate to make it another podium finish in the darkening night of Bahrain. On lap 6 he was right at Ricciardo´s tail. The Australian went wide and the Iceman used his opportunity and made a dashing overtaking move on the Red Bull pilot. A lap later the Iceman had caught his fellow compatriot Bottas and made another stunning overtaking move! Luckily this time there was no contact between the Finns (we all remember those two collisions between the Finns from last year). Massa in his Williams pitted from P2 for a fresh set of medium tyres, which made Kimi jump to P2. The gap to the race leader Rosberg, however, was already 14 seconds. But Kimi seemed to be in flames on track today -and this time only figuratively, not literally like in Australia! Also Bottas pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres. Williams´ tyre strategy differed clearly from other teams´ strategies.

Kimi pitted on lap 13 and his choice was the yellow-marked soft compound. He rejoined the track right behind Massa and Ricciardo. Again we saw very aggressive and determined Kimi, who made his way first past Massa and then past Ricciardo in an easy-looking way. The Mercedes duo pitted as well: Rosberg had a similar tyre choice to Kimi´s but Hamilton opted for a fresh set of medium tyres. It certainly seemed that there was an interesting race evolving... Kimi made his way past Red Bull´s Kvyat as well and the Iceman took back his second place. Kimi started setting fastest lap times one by one. What a pleasure it was to watch Kimi´s race! There really is something magical about Kimi and Bahrain!

At the same time Grosjean in his Haas was driving a dream race for the newcomer team. The Frenchman was already challenging Ricciardo for P4 and Grosjean made it past the Australian! Haas´ performance was very impressive, they really have some serious pace! After the second pit stops the top three had a similar tyre choice: both Mercedes drivers had the yellow-marked super soft compound, so did Kimi. Rosberg was still leading the race with Kimi second and Hamilton third. There were solid gaps between those three so no real battle for the positions.

Ferrari made the genius choice to call Kimi into the pits before the Mercedes duo for his third and last pit stop. Yellow-marked soft tyres was the Iceman´s choice for the last stint. Immediately after the pit stop Kimi started nailing it with purple sectors. Mercedes reacted immediately by taking Rosberg in for his third pit stop. The German also rejoined the track on the soft compound. Kimi benefitted from the undercut and was just a few seconds behind Rosberg. I could actually imagine how the Iceman was able to smell Rosberg´s blood and wanted to attack on the German! Hamilton pitted a few laps later also for a fresh set of soft tyres. The Briton was already over 10 seconds down on the Iceman though.

Rosberg cruised to victory under the shining lights of Sakhir and made it his fifth victory in-a-row, which is quite impressive. Rosberg has definitely got a dream start to this season and has a convincing lead in the drivers´ championship standings. Kimi continued his Bahrain magic by making it already his 8th podium finish at Sakhir! In spite of the small gap to Rosberg after the last pit stop Kimi was unfortunately unable to take the battle to the German. Hamilton completed the podium. Behind these top three Ricciardo finished 4th and what was even more stunning, Grosjean took 5th for Haas! 6th place in Australia and now 5th in Bahrain shows that Haas have a lot of potential in their car. Verstappen drove to the chequered flag in P6, which made me quite happy, too. Kvyat in his RB12 finished 7th ahead of the Williams duo Massa and Bottas. McLaren´s Vandoorne, who drove his F1 debut today, completed the top ten, which was an absolutely excellent achievement for the young Belgian! Very impressive indeed.

Rosberg has now the maximum 50 points in the championship standings. His teammate Hamilton is second with 33 points and Ricciardo third with 24 points. Kimi and Grosjean share the 4th place with 18 points and Sebastian is in P6 with 15 points. In the constructors´ standings the situation is quite crushing: Mercedes have 83 points to Ferrari´s 33. Ferrari are paying a huge price for their reliability issues, which they definitely can´t afford! And what definitely catches my eye is the fact that the newcomer Haas are in P5 with 18 points, which is utterly impressive.

The F1 circus moves to China in a fortnight. Hopefully Ferrari will be able to fix their reliability issues by the Chinese GP! But no matter what happens in China, technical failures or not, I always keep my fingers crossed for Kimi and Sebastian and hope the very best for them!

lauantai 2. huhtikuuta 2016

Bahrain GP / Qualifying: Hamilton on pole with the fastest ever lap at Sakhir!

I had a very good feeling about the qualifying as Ferrari´s pace had seemed so stunning in the last free practice session on Saturday morning. It had been very close between the Ferrari teammates with Vettel having the upper hand. But what was surprising and impressive was the fact that the Mercedes drivers were 4 tenths of a second down on the Ferrari duo! The Sakhir Circuit has always suited Kimi extremely well so I was confident that this time the Ferrari duo could actually take the battle to Mercedes for real!

Against all odds the qualifying format wasn´t changed after the qualifying farce in Australia. Although the teams were unanimous that the qualifying format needed an immediate change especially in terms of Q3, Ecclestone stated that the new format was given another chance in Bahrain. I was actually eager to see if the new elimination system could turn out more interesting and exciting than it did at the season-opener.

The Ferraris and both Mercedes were the first cars to head out on track as the first session got underway under the artificial lights. Rosberg had been the fastest man on track all weekend and he took the lead after the first runs. Sauber´s Nasr was the first driver to be eliminated in the opening phase. He was soon followed by the Renault duo Palmer and Magnussen. The Dane had a frustrating qualifying because he must start to the race from the pit lane after missing a weight check in FP2. Manor´s rookie driver Pascal Wehrlein drove an excellent qualifying as he was the last driver to be eliminated in Q1, which meant the German qualified 16th whilst his teammate Haryanto had to settle for P21.  At the end of the session Rosberg and Hamilton were topping the time sheets with Ricciardo third and Vettel fourth.

As darkness fell, Räikkönen led the two Mercedes out for Q2. At first we saw a bizarre episode as the clock started ticking but the light at the end of the pit lane was still red. A moment later green flag was out to send the drivers out. After the first runs Hamilton took the lead with Sebastian being 4 tenths down on the Briton. Rosberg and Räikkönen completed the top four. Red Bull´s Kvyat was the first driver to be eliminated in Q2, which must have been a huge disappointment as his teammate Ricciardo had no difficulties to make it in the final session. McLaren´s Alonso hadn´t been granted a permission to take part in the Bahrain GP weekend because of the broken ribs due to his horrifying crash in Australia. Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne had been called to replace the Spaniard. The Belgian´s great F1 debut saw him outqualify his teammate Button! Vandoorne qualified in P12 whilst Button managed to make it only P14. Once again Grosjean in his Haas made an excellent job by making it as high as P9 in the qualifying. The Toro Rosso duo Sainz and Verstappen didn´t even go out and try to improve their lap times in spite of the elimination threat, although there would have been enough time to do so! Sainz qualified 11th and Verstappen 10th. This time Q2 didn´t have a thrilling end like in Australia but with 5 minutes in the clock Hulkenberg was the only driver on track trying to improve his lap time! On the other hand Williams made a strange decision to send both Bottas and Massa out on a fresh set of super soft tyres in the closing stages of Q2 although both of them were already safe from the elimination!

When the last phase got underway, both Ferraris and Silver Arrows rushed out on track on super soft rubber. Hamilton´s first effort was spoiled when he ran wide exiting Turn 15. After the first attempts Rosberg took provisional pole with Sebastian 2nd only a tenth of a second down on his compatriot. Kimi was third and Hamilton fourth. This time we saw a thrilling head-to-head battle for pole going down to the wire! All four went for second runs -the only Q3 runners to do so. Hamilton nailed it with three purple sectors to take pole! Only 77 thousandths of a second separated the Mercedes duo. At the end of the day Sebastian had to settle for P3 and finally his gap to the pole-setter Hamilton turned out to be as much as half a second! Kimi was 4th two tenths off his teammate. Ricciardo put Red Bull fifth, ahead of the Williams of Bottas and Massa.

During the Bahrain GP weekend there have been many rumours about Ferrari having an issue with their turbo charger. An issue which would prevent the Italian-based team to extract the maximum out of their power unit on the straights... Well, it certainly didn´t look like that in FP3 this morning when the Ferrari duo went fastest of all! Kimi did have an issue with the turbo in Australia, which led to the Iceman´s retirement but luckily Ferrari didn´t need to change the whole power unit due to the turbo failure! And I definitely keep my fingers crossed that there won´t be any reliability issues in tomorrow´s  race! And what is more than a rumour, Mercedes seem to have an issue with the race starts. I hope both Sebastian and Kimi will start like they did in Australia and benefit from Mercedes´ issue, what ever it is.

The dark night of Bahrain with dashing sparks flying from the shining-red Ferraris made a memorable impression on me indeed. I´m looking forward to an entertaining race with some Ferrari magic! ;)